Social media anger exploded after footage was released of a female Arizona police officer putting a 15-year-old girl in a chokehold, as the teenager shouted that she was unable to breathe and her mother was begging to stop.
The cell phone footage emerged on Friday and was posted on Facebook. It has since gone viral and received more than 2.5 million views.
The punching incident took place in Mesa, Arizona, on Friday. A witness caught it on video and the cameraman can be heard pointing out, “he just punched her in the face”. “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe…please…” the girl is screaming.
A bystander approaches, apparently to intervene in the situation, who was later discovered to be the victim’s mother; the girl had apparently been an “emotionally unstable” runaway, according to Luis Paul Santiago, who recorded the incident.
According to the Free Thought Project, the second police officer standing nearby said that his colleague’s actions were in accordance with the procedure and that if she’d wanted, the officer “could have shot her dead.”
Santiago can be heard towards the end of the recording telling both the family of the girl and the police officer that he had filmed the entire thing.
“The cops wanted to delete this off my phone,” he later wrote in a Facebook post accompanying the video.
The mother reportedly said the girl suffered from asthma so the chokehold could have been potentially fatal.
“It’s a shame this happens to teenagers who can’t even defend themselves,” one commenter wrote.
“That’s bulls***,” another began. “He needs to be charged for NOT protecting or serving the public and making our streets safe, why fear gangs or criminals when our cops are just as bad…”
This incident has come on the backdrop of nationwide protests against police violence, sparked by the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of police officers, who were later acquitted of any wrongdoing by a grand jury in both cases.